THE global health crisis has forced Casterton’s P&A Society on to a new path for the ongoing revitalisation of its annual show – and the committee has accepted the challenge with gusto.
With more than $63,000 in its pocket from the Federal Government’s Regional Agricultural Show Development Grants program, the society is about to embark on a major renovation of the Island Park showgrounds – a project which will see local tradies kept busy for several months and a venue reminiscent of the show’s heyday, when it was held at the Robertson St grounds.
President Andrew McEachern said while this year’s show would, inevitably, be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the committee was determined to ensure its rebuilding efforts of the past five years were not in vain and to use the new funding for the benefit of the wider community.
A new-look poultry pavilion, indoor pavilion, upgraded committee room and cattle facilities are front and centre of the P&A society’s plans to continue its work in rebuilding the annual event and match the facilities to the growing show community.
“We feel a heavy responsibility to provide a quality show and entertainment for the community and a platform for our local agricultural and pastoral sectors to come together and celebrate rural communities,” Mr McEachern said.
“Over the past few years, the committee has worked really hard to bring our show back together and the response from the community, I think, shows that we’ve had great success.
“This year, we’re trying to find ways to still do that, but with the least amount of financial strain on the community, as possible.”
He said the show grants program enabled the recipient P&A societies, including Casterton, “to continue operating in an acceptable standard in today’s world … to add to the work already done, without putting too much pressure on the community”.
“We can keep doing that building work, but just in a different way,” he said.
One of the big winners out of the new infrastructure projects is the poultry pavilion, with the section seeing a massive revival in interest, over the past five years.
Bird entries have increased from 25 entries, to an average 130 – and still growing – with the show society forced to borrow cages from other show societies, to meet demand.
“Due to the health of our show and poultry section, surrounding poultry associations such as Warrnambool, wish to use our facilities to hold their annual ‘Poultry teaching seminar’,” Mr McEachern said.
“The new funding will allow us to upgrade our facilities, including much-needed new moveable pens, a concrete floor and a usable storage area.
“Before Covid-19, poultry convenor, Jeff Black, was in the process of starting a Casterton own Poultry club, with strong relationships already formed with the Warrnambool club and proposals already underway to potentially host of one of Warrnambool’s Poultry shows here, as well as possibly a poultry auction.
“Casterton’s new poultry club would share the new facilities.”
The show’s indoor displays section also shares its home with another community organisation and proposed works on the indoor pavilion will see the building turned into a more user-friendly space for all concerned.
“The pavilion gets very hot around show time and the proposed upgrade of insulation make it far more user friendly to display all cooking entries, floral displays and other arts and crafts, as well as improve the enjoyment of show patrons,” Mr McEachern said.
“Insulating this space would help alleviate the heat problem and would make it far more pleasant for all volunteers (many elderly) in the lead up to show day.
“We’re pleased to say that the user group that would receive the most benefit, however, is the Casterton Sandford Football Netball Club, as they use the shed as their gymnasium 50 weeks of the year.
“The walls will also now be lined and it will look a lot better.”
In addition to community groups, the show society’s investment in infrastructure will inject some much-needed cash, into the local economy.
“The upgrade will use local builders, plumbers, electricians and engineers to install insulation, assemble new bird pens, concrete floors, install a reverse cycle air conditioner, replace facia boards, replace guttering and construct a loading ramp,” Mr McEachern said.
“During construction, at least four possibly five local trades businesses would be used.”
The show committee is expected to meet in the next two weeks to determine a solid plan for the infrastructure works, as well as a broad overview of the new-look, 2020 Casterton P&A Society Show.
“With regards to the show date, at present, our social situations are changing weekly, thankfully lately for the better; society is adapting and so will the show,” Mr McEachern said.
“It may not resemble a show exactly like the last few years, but then again it might!
“We will be guided by the socialising rules that are in place at the time, but our committee will definitely aim to put on the best show we can and provide the best form of community entertainment we can, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, on November 14.”